Every parent dreads being unprepared in front of their child when faced with a “why?” question. A child’s unbound and relentless curiosity presents these scenarios more often than anticipated and sometimes lead to embarrassing situations for both child and parent. Knowing how to “handle” these questions requires a deep sense of mindfulness or awareness and complete clarity on how you want your child’s belief system to develop. Apart from the tricky “sexual” education, resolving spiritual curiosity and expression seems like a struggle for most parents. Problem is if you don’t provide a conducive environment, kids will fill the void from the wrong sources.
Having brought up in an organized religion yourself doesn’t necessarily transpire into you “believing” everything that you are presented with. Your individuality and awareness will constantly add, remove or modify the blocks that make up your own spirituality. And most times parents of growing children find themselves caught between what they “follow” due to social norms and what they actually “believe” and want to expose their children to.
If you are one of these, then this article would resonate deeply, validate your existing beliefs and motivate you on your noble path. Realize subtle mindful expressions that can provide the wisdom and freedom for kids to create their own “spiritual” space.
Painting Religion and Spirituality in Black and White:
A majority of “God fearing” and temple/church/mosque (or any other sacred place) going folks are so caught up with “their” God that debating between religion and spirituality can be futile. Educating the child that sacred places allow communities to formally worship, can help him be more compassionate towards other people’s beliefs and their religious space. That God is universally present and there can be different ways to reach Him can solve the puzzle in a young mind as to why his friends don’t come with him to church, why temples or mosques are different and why families do rituals differently. Provide an anchor in a “supreme being”, one whom they can talk to as a friend/soul mate without forcing symbolic representations to create a sense of fear and retribution for bad things.
Show them their value in this world:
Irrespective of the religion they follow, most parents want their kids to appreciate the life that have been blessed with, the sanctity and significance of nature, their role in creating joy and goodness in the world, ways to accept and handle outcomes that will not necessarily be in their favor, to savour the joy that comes only through sharing and to treasure what they get. Keep communication channels open and be approachable and available to listen to them.
Admit and raise your hands when in doubt:
A conducive environment for a child’s spiritual well being is having parents own up when faced with a tough question, rather than providing false information or sidestepping issues all together. It’s Ok to say “Sorry, that’s a mystery for me as well”. You can present different views from various cultures and also the belief system that you were brought up on and ask the kid what he feels. Kids love being asked to give their views and “reflective” discussions often lead to amazing conversations. Fake it or try to act smart and the kid will know. Avoid trust deficit in kids at any cost.
Rejoice in Nature’s presents:
While adults need to meditate or “stop” spiritually to understand the importance of the present moment, kids have this ability programmed in them naturally. Learn to understand the spontaneity and joy they derive from small “present” things and don’t get tangled in the “what after this?” web. Being aware of what the child experiences will assure him that his concept of happiness is appreciated and that the universe is a safe and “friendly” place to live in.
Enjoying the morning dew, walking barefeet on grass, getting wet in the rain, running behind a butterfly, air kissing the rainbow ….living and feeling “alive” with the wonders that nature presents every single second, reinforces core fundamentals in a kid’s soul that “oneness with nature” and everything that it supports, is the ultimate source of endless happiness and joy.
Endow the sense of Gratitude:
Praying when you see some ailing or distressed people or animals, thanking everyone responsible to get the meal on the plate, appreciating simple token gestures, selflessly caring for old parents and pets, ….in general imbibing a sense of gratitude for life and the special blessings that we are awarded with every moment. Gratitude is an essential spiritual practice and kids learn more through your actions than endless lectures or commentaries on this sacred topic. So be mindful of your every move.
Clarify Conflict, Pain and Death:
Conditioning the child to accept unexpected situations like death, help kids endure loss even when the reason is not “visible”. To build a belief structure that unexplained events have a underlying and far reaching “reason” to them, instills a sense to accept tragic events, without losing the emotional “connect” or breeding a sense of detachment.
To point out that conflict is when people fail to communicate and leads to pain and suffering, hones the kid’s emotional senses towards using dialogue as a means to resolve any conflict.
Avoid Technology intrusion:
As we pile up more and more electronic devices into our living rooms, we provide enough distractions to curious evolving minds to decipher things by themselves. Children surrounded by technology “noise” tend to be “listless” and highly irritable when faced with a silent serene environment with nothing to fill in the voids. To make space and time for some peaceful “me” time will ensure that kids retrospect inwards to understand their purpose and appreciate the sounds of nature that are overpowered by the constant electronic humming.
Infuse spirituality into every moment, to make your kids humble, compassionate, world citizens …..who appreciate the beauty of life, nature and the “space” that every living being deserves.
Kids learn with all their senses they love to pick up a rock or jump in a puddle or chase a butterfly. Kids get a sense of spirituality by being involved, and in all faiths, there are many opportunities to engage children. Nature is definitely one way to do that. Nature is a great place to find inspiration and a sense of spirituality.